Because it might be published under the condition of not having been published someplace else, I removed the part I’d post here.
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Because it might be published under the condition of not having been published someplace else, I removed the part I’d post here.
Welcome to the Fractal Future Forum, Beckett. Writing this essay is a rather intriguing way of introducing yourself to the forum. It’s certainly ineresting and creative. Your perspective feels fresh, knowledeable, and timely. Yet, I wonder what kind of audience you want to reach exactly with a text like that. I must wonder about your motives for writing down an artfully crafted exposition like this. It basically comes out of nowhere, so the context in which is arose is starkly missing.
In a way, your attempt to have an impact on a world swept in post-trust irrationality via elaborate writings that only few people are able to comprehend fully seems just as absurd as some of the phenomena you write about. Still, I found your “warm-up” a fascinating read that educated me about a perspective I was hardly familiar with, but that I value as mostly agreeable and potentially useful. And that’s fairly rare.
Your line of reasoning reminds me of that of Kevin Kelly who wrote a lot on the central role of technology. In a similar manner, Anders Sandberg comes to mind.
Anyway, let’s come to some interesting themes you mention. It seems that there has been a “decline of the future”, or at least a decline in the belief in a better future. And that seemed to have happened sometime between the Moonlanding and the Dotcom bubble, but rather closer to the Oil Crisis, which seemed to have called the continous progress towards greater material wealth and technological progess into question. How can a belief in the new determining factor of technology be maintained in a world with such a skeptical disposition towards the promises of technology? Environmental polution, nuclear disasters, and global warming didn’t help very much for making technology look like our new saviour. How can a narrative that favour technology while faceing such opposition thrive in spite of apparent odds? Now the techno optimist will throw in some cues like “Moore’s law” and “Law of Accelerating Returns”, in the hope that everyone will be convinced about the few areas in which technological progress is indeed progressing more or less in an exponential fashion with a large exponent. I fear, that won’t be enough. Essentially, it may very well be true, that our technological progress in certain key areas will suffice to transform our world radically within the next decades and centuries, but given our current cultural and societal complication, it will be a bumpy ride.
That’s why we need to stick together and stack the odds in favour of a better future that arrives sooner and with less complications, rather than later and after countless tragedies and catastrophes.
Of course, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride… But, the alternative to technology-centered policies in times ahead is irrevocable chaos and degradation. Primarily climate change will teach us the hard way. The more acute the various contemporary crises grow the better the chance might be to put into real terms what actually is needed to secure civilization. This doesn’t mean we should be in favor of growing crises, but because these growing crises are inexorable we should just start to develop a narration that is either mainstream-compatible and realistic. If the elites and the intelligent stick with it all else will follow.
I fully agree here.
It’s tempting to think that way. The problem is that people usually don’t care very much about “securing civilization”, but rather favour improving their own relative position within the civilization that surrounds them, no matter how wealthy and advanced it is. What’s ideal from the narrow and unenlightened perspective for an individual is usually not what’s ideal for society at large.
I really like that line of reasoning. It’s quite realistic and pragmatic – perhaps even quite effective and efficient. However, you already mentioned three different target audiences:
- The mainstream
- The elites
- The intelligent
Those are usually quite different groups, though there is some overlap between them. You also need to consider that the elites don’t necessarily stay elites, if the winds of change blow strong enough. And the mainstream simply follow the current “Zeitgeist”, no matter how intelligent or rational that actually is. The intelligent are an interesting group, but on their own, they aren’t too powerful and influential on their own. Sure, they (we?) create the foundations of the future, but it’s the others who step on those foundations and decide what is being done, and what isn’t.
It’s hard to convince any of these groups of something, even just considering a narrative. And it’s much harder to convince all these groups of the same thing. Who should be the primary target audience, though?
Indeed. That’s why I mentioned the elites and intelligent.
Our economy, our societies are driven by interests. “Everybody” knows for quite a while -actually decades- that our ‘way of life’ is suicidal. And if it comes to climate change and various other problems we already passed the point of no return. Buying time, is the only thing that’s left, time in order to develop technologies designed to let us survive as civilized as can be, and potentially create ‘neo-humanity’.
If we look back at neoliberal globalization it could be depicted as a ‘pragmatic’ strategy to ‘buy time’. - Of course, there is no such thing as a ‘mastermind’ who’d design such a strategy in, let’s say, 1979. But, history is always constructed from a specific point of view. Thus, from today’s position we can: in times of an american president who’s chief strategic counselor aggressively propagates nationalism, which, compared to the liberal era we are familiar with, would be a potentially dangerous waste of time, such a construction makes sense.
Today’s nationalistic populism indicates that ‘neoliberal globalization, as a strategy in order to buy time’, won’t work any longer. So, now is the time for the liberal elites and intelligent to adjust and modify ‘neoliberalism’.
Unlike 1979 today ‘chaos and degradation’ seem to be much more “real” than just theoretical knowledge, they are in sight. Believe me, the elites and the inteliigent are interested in a ‘strategy to buy time’. (At least it’s worth a try, chaos and degradation are always an alternative, but giving up can’t be an option.)
In constitutional democracies majorities are needed. That’s why ‘the mainstream’ has to be taken into considertion. A large number of people are afraid of digital change and ‘the future’. That’s why I think that UBI holds a key position in liberal strategies to push back populism. - All in all I’m not talking about current policies, I’m rather talking about the next two decades or so…
‘Neoliberalism’ certainly was a narration that worked and was basically accepted by the elites, the intelligent and the mainstream. Populism and nationalism must not become the alternative medium term. A UBI and technology-centered narrative could very well be a pragmatic and realistic strategy in times ahead.
- Sorry, I’m in a hurry now. I just read your post and started to reply. Therefore, my writing is a bit messy.
Yet not everyone really cares about that. We still live in a culture of death in which death and suicide are romanticized. Many people would prefer partying till death to working towards immortality.
In what sense did neoliberal globalization “buy time”? That’s not clear.
Yes, indeed. Nevertheless, UBI and technology on their own don’t have clear answers regarding the dichotomy between nationalism (localism?) and globalism. The gradual federalist approach that was epitomized by the EU kinda seems to work, but it takes decades and centuries to get its work done. Do we really have so much time? Is there even a reasonable alternative to that approach? What about transcending national states entirely by transitioning towards an age of self-organized networks of people. I’m skeptical about that practicality of such an approach, but it may become a necessary complement to our traditional forms of organization.
And in any case that a UBI shall be introduced, the question becomes how people will view themselves. Will work ethic remain the same and people look for jobs as the sole source of meaning, or will we be able to transition to a more flexible and diverse society in which meaning is less bound to gainful employment? I like dreaming of a society of free-spirited problem solvers forming mission-driven teams spontaneously. The redundant bullshit jobs need to die.
Not everyone needs to care, a sufficiently large number of people do, quality is what matters, not quantity. - Let them party, a fairly decadent party-culture is fine as long as it inoculates progressive liberalism.
Okay, for good reason you could as well say, it totally screwed up… But at least it worked for some decades and certainly accelerated technological advancement.
To assert it “bought time” is rather a euphemistic concession in order to ‘write the next chapter’. It will be crucial “to buy time” (by politically and strategically acting accordingly) to secure civilization.
Where’s the evidence for that? Most of our crucial technological tools were developed prior to the 1970s. In the recent decades we had rather refinements (if at all) of already existing technologies, rather than the creation of revolutionary new technologies. The visionaries of the 1960s would be appalled at the lack of flying cars, space colonies, fusion plants, direct information download technologies, smart drugs, and so on. Instead, we got gadgets and apps. Great, better than nothing, but it’s still a pretty poor world compared with what we could have right now, if humanity had gotten its shit together in the last decades.
Would, could, should… They might have been developed before the '70s but today they’re cheap. To ignore corporate capitalism and its impact on technological design is pie in the sky idealism if it comes to politics and policy-making. You dream. That’s fine…
What about actually bringing forth a real argument in favour of your claim that neoliberal globalization “bought time”?
Didn’t I put down someplace that “buying time” was meant to be a euphemism? (… )
Look, it’s all about history which never has been more but a construction from a specific point of view. Neoliberalism was real. Do you think any other realistic “scenario” would have been better in as far as technological advancements are concerned? “If humanity had gotten its shit together” is certainly one hell of a story
An “euphemism” for what exactly? For Neoliberalism not destroying our world entirely (yet)?
That depends on what you would see as “realistic”. If one believes in strict determinism, no other scenario was possible, because there was no other choice for history to progress as it had done.
But let’s try to imagine a scenario in which the Oil Crisis never happened, and in which Neoliberalism failed to take off. Instead, the political left continued to progress towards a globalized worker movement. A globally strong worker movement kept wages high and profit margins low. Instead of simply expanding their production, corporations were forced to innovate dramatically to remain profitable. With high wages, the workers could afford the expensive high-tech products created by the super-innovative corporations they worked for.
Technologically empowered, the global worker movement coordinated its efforts on a planetary scale, so that tax evasion by corporations became very hard. Wages have risen globally rapidly. Capital needed to be invested in the riskiest and most innovative efforts in order to produce a significant profit. An arms race of innovation continued for decades. Capital concentration was much more limited, but when it concentrated, it supported the most radical innovations. Large-scale privatization didn’t happen. Instead, intelligent innovation was infused in all places. Wikipedia-type stigmergic self-organization became the norm by the 2000s. Organizations innovated their management structures in favor of self-organization and seriously mission-driven pursuits. Rent-seeking behaviour like software patents or patents on genes were never successfully attempted. Instead, open source collaboration has become the norm. Software became free and of higher quality than what we have now. Virtual reality was used routinely in business and private settings in the 2010s. Reputation economies took off when augmented reality glasses took off at about the same time.
Big banking crises and recessions didn’t happen. The economy improved gradually and smoothly for all sections of the population. Taxes for the elites remained high, enforced through a successful globalization of regulation. The population became much more open to transhumanist technologies as the general level of abundance was high enough that almost everyone would be able to profit from them.
But all of that didn’t happen and we were stuck with Neoliberalism and retarded progress.
Perhaps the more interesting question is: Why didn’t this scenario happen? I think the answer to that are coordination problems. The left and the worker movement failed to coordinate to a sufficient degree to counter the effective coordination of capitalists who favored Neoliberalism and a weakened worker movement. Capital turned out the be easier to coordinate than the political ambitions of people. People are complex. Capital is simple. Humans can’t deal with complexity very well. That’s why they seek for and implement simple solutions, whenever they can get away with them.
Yep, exactly.[quote=“Radivis, post:13, topic:1847”]
If one believes in strict determinism
While talking about history, I don’t think there is such a thing.
The scenario you get at is plausible. [quote=“Radivis, post:13, topic:1847”]
the more interesting question is: Why didn’t this scenario happen? I think the answer to that are coordination problems.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s I still have vital reminiscence of the cold war. This war was latently already lost in the 70s (as for example the great british historian E. Hobsbawm explicated in his book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991) I think loosing that war made the left weak and neoliberalism possible.
I’m not in favor of neoliberalism, and never really was. And I agree that the rising of current populism is correlated with the state of affairs caused by neoliberalism. But I’m also convinced that even if neoliberalism screwed up, liberalism in general is the only realistic alternative to authoritarian regime or even totalitarianism. It’s a pity but fact, the left as a historical force is gone, and all that’s left is liberalism or nationalistic populism. That actually is today’s political situation. Thus, if I have to choose which side I’m on it’s liberalism’s. - It’s about time to reinvent it.